Four men charged with laundering fraudulant VAT refunds from the UK
Two men were allegedly recruited to travel to London to claim fraudulent VAT refunds at Heathrow Airport.
SINGAPORE: Four men were charged in court on Tuesday (Dec 13) with engaging in a conspiracy to launder fraudulent value-added-tax (VAT) refunds from the UK.
They are Alan Yeo, 34; Siddhartha Ikeda Asai Thamby, 27; Kelvin Ng Wai Wah, 40; and M J-Earn Joesz, 39.
The Singapore Police Force's (SPF) Commercial Affairs Department and Singapore Customs had conducted joint investigations into the scheme.
This followed information received by Singapore Customs regarding an unsuccessful attempt to make VAT refund claims in a European country, both authorities said in a joint news release.
Between Dec 21, 2020 and Jan 1, 2021, Yeo allegedly recruited Ng and Joesz to travel to London to claim fraudulent VAT refunds at Heathrow Airport. Siddhartha introduced Joesz to Yeo.
Ng and Joesz were purportedly not entitled to claim such VAT refunds as they did not purchase the jewellery pieces in question in the UK.
It is further suspected that the invoices relied on to claim the refunds were fictitious, said SPF and Singapore Customs, adding that the men received €42,975 (S$61,577) in VAT refunds.
Ng and Joesz took the VAT refunds back to Singapore and allegedly handed the sum to Yeo.
Yeo then paid commissions to Ng, Joesz and Siddhartha and took a cut for himself.
SPF and Singapore Customs said that it is further alleged that Yeo instructed Joesz to bring jewellery from overseas to Singapore, and not to declare the imported items to Singapore Customs.
"As a result, Joesz allegedly received pieces of jewellery in London and Amsterdam, which he brought into Singapore without making the necessary declaration under the Customs Act," they said.
Ng and Joesz were given additional charges for failing to declare that they were carrying cash into Singapore which exceeded the prescribed legal amount.
Joesz was charged with failing to declare goods imported into Singapore under the Customs Act.
Additionally, Yeo was also charged with abetting others to breach their cash reporting obligations and for abetting Joesz in committing the offence under the Customs Act.
SPF and Singapore Customs reminded the public "that claiming tax refunds from overseas through fraudulent means is a serious form of tax fraud".
"Singapore adopts a zero tolerance approach towards the laundering of proceeds of tax fraud and other criminal activities.
"The authorities will not hesitate to take action against any individuals who commit these offences," they said.
For an offence under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, a person can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both.
For failing to declare goods imported into Singapore under the Customs Act, a person may face a jail term of up to 12 months, a fine of up to S$10,000 or the equivalent of the amount of the customs duty, excise duty or tax payable, whichever is the greater amount, or both.